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Title: The nature of law and legality in the Byzantine canonical collections 381-883
Author: Wagschal, David Ferguson
ISNI:       0000 0004 2692 1190
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2010
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The present work seeks to explore the nature of law and legality in the Byzantine canonical tradition through a careful reading of the central texts of the Byzantine canonical corpus. The principal topics to be considered include the shape and growth of the corpus as a whole, the content and themes of the traditional prologues, the language, genre and style of the canons themselves, and the traditional thematic rearrangements of the canonical corpus. As a cultural-historical exploration of law, this work has as its goal throughout to trace the fundamental contours of how the tradition conceives, frames and "imagines" itself as a legal system: central themes and concepts, basic presuppositions, recurring patterns, and prominent contextualizations. Drawing on categories of modern legal theory and legal anthropology, this work is particularly interested in the nature of legal norms and their relationship to other normative systems, the place and role of technical rule-discourse, and mechanisms of change, development and interpretation. The relationship of the canons to the secular law will also be taken into account. The central argument of this work is that the picture of law that emerges from the Byzantine material is fundamentally at odds with many formalist/positivist expectations of modern western legal culture. This dissonance had traditionally made it very easy to dismiss Byzantine canon law as "primitive" or "decadent". If approached more sympathetically, however, this strange legal world can be read as constituting a surprisingly coherent and rich legal system that is characterized by 1) a deep investment in embedding itself in broader value-narratives; 2) the centrality of the idea of law as a sacred (and relatively inviolable) tradition; and 3) a strong orientation towards the realization of substantive justice, not formal consistency. If taken seriously, this picture of law has a number of important implications for contemporary Orthodox canonical legal theory, the broader history of church law, and the study of late antique and Byzantine law generally.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available